Readers’ wildlife photos

November 19, 2021 • 8:00 am

We’re running a bit lower on photos than I like, so please gather up and send in your good wildlife/travel/street photos. Thanks!

Today we have travel photos from Richard Bond, which will make you antsy to get on a plane. (Well, it did for me!). Richard’s captions are indented and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Since you accept travel photos, perhaps you might like these: a few of the high points from a tour through four cities in SE Asia.

The seven-headed cobra is a common motif in Cambodia, and this photo shows an example that I liked very much in the balustrade of steps leading to a temple near our hotel in Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh lies mostly on the west bank of the Tonle Sap river and the much larger Mekong. Unsurprisingly, river traffic is important. The first photo below shows boats at the southern tip of the peninsula formed by the confluence of the rivers. I believe that people live on these boats. Ferries are a necessity: see the second photo.

Between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap we stopped at a market. The foods for sale included many stir-fried invertebrates: first scorpions, and then a much larger variety; the pale things in the right foreground are silkworm grubs.

I really liked Siem Reap. It is most noted for the Angkor Wat complex of temples, but there are many more features of interest. This photo shows a home on the nearest of the many floating villages on the Tonle Sap lake. This lake was filled annually when the Mekong floods caused the Tonle Sap river to flow backwards. Today China diverts so much of the Mekong for its own use that this no longer happens as formerly, and it might be that the lake will become so polluted that the floating villages will no longer be viable.

Here we see a man in a workshop that produces examples of typical Cambodian art. This is not tourist tat: these people are real artists who take great pride in their work. I preferred this photo to some that I took that showed faces because it exemplifies the total concentration of these fine craftsman.

Near Luang Phabang we visited a rice farm, where we saw all stages in the production of rice from preparing the paddy to polishing the seeds. I was amused by the “scarecrow” made from rice stalks; nothing goes to waste. (Yes, I fully admit to an idiosyncratic taste in what is interesting.)

Here’s a water buffalo dragging a rake with huge tines to churn the paddy into mud for planting. As it shows, we were invited to take part in the fun. The man in the green shirt was our guide here, and he was outstanding: totally expert and spoke fluent English with almost no accent.(All of our local guides in all three countries were excellent.)

The Kuang Si waterfall, comprises a series of cascades through tropical forest. Thought not particularly high or of large volume, it really is very beautiful. My photo does not do it justice.

This photo was taken in an enclosure near the bottom of the falls that houses Asiatic Black Bears (Ursus thibetanus) rescued from tiny cages where they are “milked” for their bile for use in traditional “medicine”. Many of them were captured when young, so would not thrive if released into the wild. In any case, they are extinct in the area and for hundreds of kilometres around, so there is no wild population that they could join. The enclosure is large and packed with trees and wooden structures to give full scope for their arboreal habits, so it was quite difficult to get a good photo. This was the best that I could manage.

I was not in much of a state to appreciate Hanoi and I took hardly any photos. I was unexpectedly tired. It transpired that I was suffering from severe anaemia caused by a condition that later landed me in hospital with sepsis. On top of that I was starting with the worst cold that I have had for a long time, probably caught from a pushy gaggle of Chinese tourists in a Luang Prabang museum. This was a pity, since Hanoi looks interesting. However, I did enjoy a boat trip around Haiphong Bay (no walking!). These two photos show a couple of the nearly 2,000 islands.

Here is a local fishing boat. Some fishing areas are in dispute between Vietnam and China, with Chinese gunboats armed with water cannon disrupting the Vietnamese boats (according to the Vietnamese).

The islands are limestone, and one has a cave complex. I did not feel well enough to tackle what looked like an intimidating flight of steps, and anyway I am claustrophobic, so I stayed on the quay while the rest of the party went to the caves. After a while I noticed the boat in in this photo turned out to be fishing litter out of the water. I suppose that anywhere popular suffers from people dropping litter (probably Chinese tourists) but such an effort to clean it up is commendable.

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 27, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please keep those photos coming in, folkx!

Today we have a melange of travel photos by Joe Routon. Joe’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

First, I’ll post my photos of visitors from Asia who have invaded Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and a few other northeastern states. The nefarious planthopper Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is wreaking havoc with trees. The photo on the left was taken around the middle of July; the one in the middle, photographed with my new iPhone 12 Pro Max, taken a month later, and the one on the right taken yesterday.

This is the Market Hall in Ghent, Belgium. It’s an open area that’s used for events and concerts.

Here’s my slightly Photoshopped photo of Bran Castle, commonly known as Dracula’s Castle, in Transylvania, Romania.

In the spirit of Brussels’ famous statue Manneken Pis (“Little Pissing Man”), Helsinki, Finland, has its own “Bad Bad Boy,” which is about 28 feet tall.

Here’s one of my photos of the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.

I made this photo of the Andes Mountains on our trip to Peru.

Here’s one of my photos of the magnificent, breathtakingly beautiful Cologne Cathedral in Germany.

Reader’s travel photos: Nagasaki

August 9, 2021 • 2:00 pm

Since today is the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, reader Joe Routon sent us some photos from the area. His captions are indented and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

My Trip to Nagasaki

My father, a Marine lieutenant during WWII, was one of the first Americans to enter Nagasaki after the bombing of the city. He and other Marines, who were stationed there to help maintain order, lived in the Mitsubishi factory for several weeks, unknowingly absorbing harmful radiation. Fortunately, he lived to the age of 83, unlike many of his fellow soldiers who succumbed to cancer, caused by exposure.

It had long been a goal of mine to visit Nagasaki, so my wife and I planned a trip of several weeks to Japan.

On our train ride to Nagasaki, we passed through Hiroshima, site of the first atomic blast, on August 6, 1945. Gazing through the window at the buildings and the people walking the streets, I tried to imagine that day.

Our visit to Japan so far had included Tokyo, Nikko, Takayama, Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, and Kurashiki. We found the Japanese people to be unfailingly polite, helpful (one lady went out of her way for four blocks to guide us to our hotel), considerate of others, and welcoming to us American tourists.

Our day in Nagasaki began with a streetcar ride to Peace Park, at the epicenter of the atomic bombʼs explosion. We lingered for a few minutes at the wing-shaped fountain that was dedicated to the fatally wounded who begged for water.

Heading farther into the Park, we stopped to see statues and sculptures from all over the world that were donated to Nagasaki to memorialize the atomic bombing. We passed by the ruins of the concrete walls of a prison where 134 inmates had died instantly.

At the end of the Park is the Peace Statue: a seated man, 30 feet tall, with one hand pointing up in the direction from where the bomb had come and the other extending outward in a gesture of peace.

The statue, “Maiden of Peace,” was given to the Japanese people by China.

A few hundred yards away, the exact epicenter (the bomb exploded 1500 feet above) is marked with a black pillar placed in the center of concentric circles on the ground that signify the spreading waves of death. A black coffin in front of the pillar contains the nearly 150,000 names of all of the known victims of the fiery blast.

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum pulls no punches. Its photographs and videos of the city before and after the explosion are mind-numbing. Inside, the lighting grows dim and a clock can be heard ticking away the seconds until 11:02, when it abruptly stops.

Displays show hand bones melded in the searing heat (7000 degrees F.) into a clump of melted glass, remnants of a personʼs skull inside a helmet, clothing exposed in the bombing, photographs of dead and dying victims, and video accounts by survivors.

Other exhibitions show damage caused by heat rays, by the force of the explosions, by fires, and by radiation. Viewing them is not a pleasant experience, but, like Auschwitz, it is something that should be seen by everyone.

Whether or not the bombing was justified, countless innocent lives, young and old, military and civilian, were lost; animal and plant life were destroyed. Visiting this museum is the closest you can come to comprehending the horrific magnitude of the death and destruction of atomic warfare.

I came to Nagasaki and got a glimpse of what my father experienced 63 years ago. By connecting with history, I connected with him.

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 13, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your photos; I always have need of more!

Joe Routon sends some travel photos from Peru; his captions are indented, and you can click on his photos to enlarge them. I visited Machu Picchu once, and consider it one of the three or four most beautiful places I’ve visited.

Here are some photos that I made in Peru at Machu Picchu, one of the 7 Wonders of the World. It was built around 1450 AD by the Incas.

We arrived early in the morning to watch the clouds lift.

Here’s one of Machu Picchu’s ubiquitous llamas.

Machu Picchu, 7,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains, is the most visited tourist attraction in Peru. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

The Urubamba River near Machu Picchu.

A Peruvian mother and child.

This is a Peruvian shaman. The shamans are healers who have passed along ancient knowledge dating back before the Incas.

Readers’ wildlife photos

April 12, 2021 • 8:00 am

These aren’t really wildlife, but these photos of old Antarctic expedition huts are of immense interest, at least to me. The photographer is Michael Hannah, a paleontologist at the University of Victoria at Wellington, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them. Mike’s captions are indented.

Here are some pictures of the “heroic era” huts on Ross Island, Antarctica along with some comments. I’ve included a couple of Ponting’s original photos. [Herbert Ponting, the photographer on Scott’s Terra Nova expedition in 1910-1913.]

It was always thrilling to work in Antarctica, where over five drilling seasons I was involved in a lot of amazing science. But one of my proudest achievements was to be made an official guide to the historic huts on Ross Island. In the end I never guided anyone through them – but the appointment is listed on my CV!

There are three huts in the vicinity of McMurdo Station and Scott Base. The oldest dates back to Captain Scott’s first expedition (1901 – 1904). It was built at Hut Point, now just across the way from McMurdo Station.

This wasn’t a very comfortable hut. Designed in Australia, it had wide verandas all around to keep the sun off and was poorly insulated and as a result it was cold and miserable – the expedition never used it as accommodation. They stayed on their ship Discovery which was frozen in nearby.


The hut was prefabricated and you can still see the code marks used to match up the various pieces.

There is not a lot to see inside – which is not the case with the next two huts.


Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds dates from his first Antarctic expedition (1907 – 1909). This small hut is probably my favourite – it is preserved almost exactly as it was when the expedition left it.

This visit there showed lots of snow blown against the hut

Under that snow is the jerry-built garage and a pile of junk. Conservators have argued about what is junk and what should be preserved! On a later visit it looked like this:

Going inside is like stepping back in  time – clichéd I know, but true. Unfortunately, I made a mistake with my camera and my pictures are pretty rubbish. Here are a few of my better ones:

On of the beds had a headboard constructed of old packing cases -which carry Shackleton’s signature – this image is not upside down.

The Cape Royds hut is very close to the world’s most southern rookery of Adele penguins – and i was lucky enough to be there while they were nesting.

For an insight into the appalling sex life of the Adele Penguins, you should look up the publication by George Murray Levick, a scientist with the 1910-13 Scott Antarctic Expedition. The publication was so scandalous it was never publicly released at the time. [JAC: I did post on Levick a while back.]

Of course the most famous hut on Ross Island is the one built by Scott for his 1910-1913 expedition. The hut was also used by Shackleton’s Ross Sea party who were there to support his attempt to cross the continent in 1914-1917.  So the hut when I saw it was as the Ross sea party left it – not Scott. However, since then the Antarctic Heritage Trust who look after all these historic sites have restored it to as it was in Scott’s day. Part of this was the reconstruction of wall made of packing cases that Scott had originally put up to separate the officers from the men.

This was a much more successful hut. Well insulated and warm. The interior contains relics of both Scott’s expedition and Shackleton’s Ross Sea party.  The hut is dominated by the large mess table:

The table was made famous in this photo by Scott’s photographer Herbert Ponting. I think this is Scott’s party celebrating Christmas dinner around the table.

This set of bunks was known as “the tenements”:

This is Ponting’s picture of the tenements.  The people I recognise are (from left to right) Apsley Cherry-Garrard, (author of The Worst Journey in the world), “Birdy” Bowers and Captain Titus Oates, both of whom died along with Scott on the return Journey from the pole.

Ponting’s darkroom is still there.

Tucked away next to one of the bunks is this pencilled note:

It was written by a member of the Ross Sea Party – W. Richards (I know nothing about him). The top names on the list are (Victor) Hayward – spelt wrongly here, (Aeneas) Mack(intosh) and (Arnold Spencer-) Smith, all of whom died during the expedition. The final entry – Ship (?) refers to the ship that transported them to Antarctica – the Aurora. It was blown out to sea before they had unloaded their supplies and couldn’t make it back leaving the entire party short of supplies. They didn’t know what happened to it so they were unsure if it would be back to pick them up.

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 1, 2021 • 8:00 am

I importune you in the bowels of Ceiling Cat to send me your wildlife photos!

Today’s contributor is Joe Routon with some lovely travel photos. Joe’s captions are indented and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

My balloon ride over Cappadocia.


Electrical wires in India


Mt. Popa is a volcanic formation in Myanmar. On top, 2,500 feet above, sits a Buddhist shrine and monastery.


A street photograph.

When I’m in a foreign country I’m always on the lookout for interesting looking people to photograph on the street. A few years ago, when my wife and I were in Budapest, we were walking near the Parliament building when I spotted two young women. Not being able to speak Hungarian, I pointed to my camera to indicate that I’d like to take a photo. They nodded, so I took several. When I finished I asked them, enunciating slowly so they could understand what I was saying, “Where . . . are . . . you . . . girls . . . from?” One looked up at me, smiled, and said, “Florida.”

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 2, 2021 • 8:00 am

I am running woefully low on wildlife photos, with about a week’s worth left. Please send in your good ones!

Today we have travel and street photography from Joe Dickinson. Joe’s comments are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Here is another shot of what is properly called “Cloud Gate” in Chicago.  Compare to my earlier set and you can see that the seams have been polished out. 

This is in Bergen, Norway.  A funicular runs up to a nice park and overlook.  This is passing through a tunnel on the way back down, with a spattering of rain.

We happened to encounter a wedding procession at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.

Chicago again, looking west from the Hancock Tower.

This is the boat (barge?) on which we took a canal cruise northeast from Paris.

Here are some Indian tourists at a partially ruined tower, Qutb Minar.

A gathering at a Sikh festival in Delhi.

This gate leading to Lesser (lower) Prague is at one end of the Charles Bridge over Vltava (the Moldau).

I expect everyone recognizes the Sydney Opera House.  The terrace below is quite the happening place late afternoons and evenings.

This is the view from the Opera House back toward the city center at night.

Porto, Portugal, is an exceptional colorful city because of the extensive use of tile on exteriors.

Finally, this is the main square in Krakow, Poland.